Mackeys Meander the Magnificent, our Junior Ranger Adventures.
It’s kinda cool how visiting a place you’ve seen before becomes a new experience for you when you are watching others see it with fresh eyes. I mean, Carlsbad Caverns are unequivically a miraculous wonder of nature and magnificence. But, so are humans…especially the really young ones. And, truth be told, watching the kids revel in awe is as good to me as the sights.
Even the ones meticulously formed through the gentle drips of water over millions of years. Sincerely, if you’re are really looking…which we all should be…there is nothing more beautiful than showing unconditional love to a child. Taking our kids to National Parks is one of our ways of doing just that. We want them to feel the drop in their stomach as they walk down the natural entrance and stare into the great abyss.
The first breathtaking look.
We want them to feel the change in temperature from the hot desert air to the cool, wet feel of the air in the caverns.
This is me happy to be shaded and cool 😎
We want to watch their heads bob up down and all around surrounded by beauty.
Fixated on the patterns. Do you like the soda straws, swiss cheese or cave popcorn best?
Curious about how it’s made. Who lived here before? How were they used? Where are the bats?!?
Stuck in the mud?
Sometimes it can be unnerving to enter such mysterious places with confidence…especially as you watch kids peering down from great heights. And, sometimes it can be overwhelming for the kids. I watched a mom carry a pretty grown child (like almost as tall as her) all the way down the entrance ramp. Which is quite long! The kiddo was not moving…almost paralyzed with fear. The mom was comforting and communicative and the kiddo never unclenched her fingers or opened her eyes. You know your kids best, trust your instincts and trust them. They will tell you when they are ready. And, when they are ready – it will be wonderful!
The Hairy Ones’ enthusiasm matched… perhaps beat…the wonder of the kids.❤️
Also, check the schedule and plan ahead. About 500,000 people visit the park each year. If you want a guided tour, you’ll need to book that in advance. However, we found the self-guided to fit our pace perfectly.
Did you grub?
There are a couple of stops for snacks in the cavern. This is not where you go for fine dining! But even a stop for a chocolate chip cookie and some water feels magical when you are eating in the depths of the cavern. I recommend stopping for snacks after your first loop. Your shorter legged children will thank you. Also, it’s a good time to pull out those Junior Ranger booklets and work on them while the information is still fresh. Nothing better than working on stalactites (the dangerous looking down drips) and stalagmites (the unicorn horns growing from the ground) while surrounded by them!
What did we dig the most?
The interaction with the Park Ranger on this trip was really special. The ranger that the kids interviewed previously worked at our “home” National Park, the Indiana Dunes.
He worked through the rules of the park letting the kids answers teach the rest of us. He pointed out the durability any creature needs to survive the barrenness of the caverns. And, he happened to be the same ranger that was there at the end for their park pledge…he remembered their names like 5 hours later! My personal favorite was the inclusion of eating vegetables in said pledge. Nothing like relying on a village and some humor to keep kids pointed in the right direction!
“I pledge to protect the parks and eat my veggies.”
Every park tells a story. Most parks (and thus, their stories) date back thousands…or in the case of the caverns, millions and millions of years. Carlsbad Caverns is a living proof of the importance of preservation so the stories can be shared. From the explorers that came and their journeys to the formation of rocks via calcite and other minerals. The fossils of ocean creatures show the magnitude of how time can change the terrain so dramatically and links together with what we need to do to preserve our parks for the future. How will Carlsbad Caverns look 500 years from now? What can we do to protect the bats? Help the rangers? What is our place in this great story?
For us, it’s starting the love early.
Here are the up to date details. Have fun!
Keep it glowing!